And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?…
The possession of our souls is a very emphatical expression. It describes that state in which a man has both the full command, and the undisturbed enjoyment, of himself; in opposition to his under going some inward agitation which discomposes his powers. Upon the least reflection it must appear, how essential such a state of mind is to happiness. He only who thus possesses his soul is capable of possessing any other thing with advantage; and, in order to attain and preserve this self-possession, the most important requisite is, the habitual exercise of patience. I know that patience is apt to be ranked, by many, among the more humble and obscure virtues; belonging chiefly to those who groan on a sick bed, or who languish in a prison. If their situation be, happily, of a different kind, they imagine that there is no occasion for the discipline of patience being preached to them. But I hope to make it appear, that, in every circumstance of life, no virtue is more important, both to duty and to happiness; or more requisite for forming a manly and worthy character. It principally, indeed, regards the disagreeable circumstances which are apt to occur. But in our present state, the occurrence of these is so frequent, that, in every condition of life, patience is incessantly called forth.
I. PATIENCE UNDER PROVOCATIONS. We are provoked, sometimes by the folly and levity of those with whom we are connected; sometimes by their indifference, or neglect; by the incivility of a friend, the haughtiness of a superior, or the insolent behaviour of one in lower station. Hardly a day passes, without somewhat or other occurring, which serves to ruffle the man of impatient spirit. Of course, such a man lives in a continual storm. He knows not what it is to enjoy a train of good humour. Servants, neighbours, friends, spouse, and children, all, through the unrestrained violence of his temper, become sources of disturbance and vexation to him. In vain is affluence; in yam are health and prosperity. The least trifle is sufficient to discompose his mind, and poison his pleasures. His very amusements are mixed with turbulence and passion. I would beseech this man to consider of what small moment the provocations which he receives, or at least imagines himself to receive, are really in themselves; but of what great moment he makes them by suffering them to deprive him of the possession of himself.
II. PATIENCE UNDER DISAPPOINTMENTS. Are we not, each in his turn, doomed to experience the uncertainty of worldly pursuits? Why, then, aggravate our misfortunes by the unreasonable violence of an impatient spirit Perhaps the accomplishment of our designs might have been pregnant with misery. Perhaps from our present disappointment future prosperity may rise.
III. PATIENCE UNDER RESTRAINTS. No man is, or can be, always his own master. We are obliged, in a thousand cases, to submit and obey. The discipline of patience preserves our minds easy, by conforming them to our state. By the impetuosity of an impatient and unsubmitting temper, we fight against an unconquerable power; and aggravate the evils we must endure.
IV. Patience under injuries and wrongs. To these, amidst the present confusion of the world, all are exposed. No station is so high, no power so great, no character so unblemished, as to exempt men from being attacked by rashness, malice, or envy. To behave under such attacks with due patience and moderation, is, it must be confessed, one of the most trying exercises of virtue. But, in order to prevent mistakes on this subject, it is necessary to observe, that a tame submission to wrongs is not required by religion. We are by no means to imagine that religion tends to extinguish the sense of honour, or to suppress the exertion of a manly spirit. It is under a false apprehension of this kind that Christian patience is sometimes stigmatized in discourse as no other than a different name for cowardice. On the contrary, every man of virtue ought to feel what is due to his character, and to support properly his own rights. Resentment of wrong is a useful principle in human nature; and for the wisest purposes was implanted in our frame. It is the necessary guard of private rights; and the great restraint on the insolence of the violent, who, if no resistance were made, would trample on the gentle and peaceable. Resentment, however, if not kept within due bounds, is in hazard of rising into fierce and cruel revenge. It is the office of patience to temper resentment by reason.
V. PATIENCE UNDER ADVERSITY AND AFFLICTION. This is the most common sense in which this virtue is understood; as it respects disease, poverty, old age, loss of friends, and the other calamities which are incident to human life. In general, there are two chief exercises of patience under adversity; one respecting God, and another respecting men. Patience with respect to God, must, in the days of trouble, suppress the risings of a murmuring and rebellious spirit. Patience in adversity, with respect to men, must appear by the composure and tranquility of our behaviour. The loud complaint, the querulous temper, and fretful spirit, disgrace every character. They show a mind that is unmanned by misfortunes. We weaken thereby the sympathy of others; and estrange them from the offices of kindness and comfort. The exertions of pity will be feeble, when it is mingled with contempt.
(H. Blair, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?